Didn’t You Pass Me Already?

“Didn’t you pass me already?”, asked the distracted hiker with the enormous camera and off-leash dog.

“Yes. And this is my last loop”, I said.

What I didn’t say was that I had passed her 5 times already on this 2 km loop and that I had done the loop 3 times before that.

Not many people notice us “loop-ers” but I love seeing their confusion and then their amazement when it dawns on them they they have been lapped.

Last year, as I was on hill repeat 10 out of 20, one casual hiker asked how many I was doing. When I said I was working on 20, he was truly inspired and decided to join me. I don’t know how many repeats he did but by the time I finished my 20 he was still going strong. Maybe he was proving something to his girlfriend, but I was happy to see I inspired someone.

Today on my 1 km city trail route, I saw a commercial grass cutting crew on maybe 5 of my 8 laps. On each of my laps I saw most people at least twice – several dog walkers, girl out for graduation photos, grandmother out for a smoke break, and a few other runners. I hope my running has inspired some of them to kick it up a notch even further.

No matter how much or how little our running effort seems to us, it can be a huge inspiration to someone else. Or they can think we are just loopy.

Keep running. Keep inspiring.

IMG_20160520_173249327 (1280x720)

Wearing in my shoes – Topo MT2

I was desperately in need of some new shoes. The old ones had split on the sides, and the even older ones felt like they had flat tires. So I went into Gord’s Running Store in Calgary, tried on a couple pair and walked out with Topo MT2 trail running shoes. I had never heard of Topo before but I have been very happy with them. They were strongly recommended if I wanted something between moon shoes (think Hoka’s) and tight fitting trail shoes (my most recent New Balance). Maybe something like my old Pearl Izumi’s but something that didn’t blow through the toes so quick because of all the downhill I do. I don’t have a good sense for what makes good trail shoes, just for what has not lasted very long for me.

The Topo’s I purchased are very wide at the toes (like Altra’s), but they don’t have the arch like Altra’s do. They are light like Hoka’s, but not as wide. And they dry quickly. They have decent enough traction but not so aggressive you don’t want to use them on the road occasionally. I’ve always struggled with laces coming undone, but for some reason, these laces seem to just stay tied. Nothing worse (almost) than laces that keep coming undone at inopportune times. And the 3mm drop works well with me. No blisters, no problems with the toenails, and no hot spots.

So this morning as I was walking around indoors it suddenly felt a little lower on the outside of the heel. Both heels. Was it my imagination? On closer inspection I noticed that the grip was starting to wear on the heel. Have I overused them on sharp rocks? Has my family been sneaking them into their runs? Has our cat been gnawing on the rubber? Then I calculated backward and realized that I already had 400 km on them, and much of it on tough gravel. Maybe shoes aren’t supposed to last forever but I’d love these ones to last.

On the trail I don’t notice the loss of thickness in the grip at the back so I plan to keep using them much longer this summer. I’m sure I will put another 400km on them before anything else wears out on them but I was a little disappointed. I mean, I just bought them 5 weeks ago. But 400 km in 5 weeks is a lot, I guess.

I guess Gord will be seeing me a couple more times this summer.

IMG_20160525_150212724

 

Big Hill Springs – Places to Run (or not)

I’m not sure if the “Big Hill” at these natural springs is the hill that I ran since there are bigger hills around, but the hill that I ran was big enough for this short loop. At least it was steep enough. It was definitely a “hiking only” hill.

The park really is very small, with the looped trail only being 2 km long. I hadn’t realized how short the trail was when I planned this run. So I did the loop 8 times to get in 15 km and 400m of elevation gain. My legs were definitely feeling the downhill by the time I ended.

image

The park is often very busy with 20+ cars in the parking lot, especially on sunny weekends for the picnic’ers who don’t want to go far from Calgary but want to experience the outdoors. Running the trail then would be very frustrating. On the sunniest days, the kids wade in the water and every open space is used up for picnics, baby strollers, and dogs.

But I had picked a Friday after work when the rain was threatening at any time. So there were only 5 cars in the lot making the trail very quiet. I had lucked upon a good time to go and I even stayed dry.

image

The first kilometer of the loop is along this creek that pops out of the ground at several mineral springs. The water isn’t warm, but it is full of minerals and used to be very popular with those seeking the health benefits of mineral baths.

I loved listening to the quiet, to the creek, and being out of the wind in this protected valley.

I’ve noticed that other runner and biking bloggers talk about following the creek from this park for the 20 km downstream to Cochrane. Unfortunately, even though there is a truck trail, it is provincial road allowance, the adjacent landowner has been grumpy for many years and is insistent on the “No Trespassing” through that general area including the road allowance. It looks like it could be a great place to run but alas, I didn’t go for it this time around giving the “crochety farmer” a wide berth.

image

image

image
I only went off the trail on one loop and went across this make-shift bridge (and stayed dry)

I can’t say this is normally a great place to run. I was lucky that there were no crowds, but that doesn’t happen often. And the loop was only 2 km with not much else in the area to extend it. But the serenity, the creek, and the trees made this a great run for me this time.

Located 1/2 hour west of Calgary near Cochrane at Big Hill Springs Provincial Park

Grassi Lakes – Places to Run

Grassi Lakes Park in Canmore makes for a great hike and a tough run. The main loop is 4 km starting at the parking lot with a lot of elevation gain – maybe several hundred meters or so. At the far end of the loop are these two incredibly clear small shallow lakes. They are a great place to take a snack break as you wonder at the beauty.

image

Near the start of the trail is a fork with a sign for “easy” and “more difficult”, both going to the same location. If you do the loop you would take one up and the other down. I definitely recommend the more difficult for at least one direction. There are waterfalls, views of the townsite and lots of steep stone steps. If you take the easy route you get views too but not nearly as good. We took the difficult route up and the easy route down.

image

The trail was way too popular and crowded on the spring Saturday that we were out there so the going was a bit tough. So wait a few weeks into summer, go early in the morning, or go on a weekday for a quieter route.

image

image

image

To get there go south of Canmore, head past the nordic center for 2 km and park next to the lake.

At the top end of the loop, if you go past Grassi lake (south) you will go past a very popular cliff climbing area as you ascend more stairs up to Spray Lake for another amazing view.

If you head east from Grassi lake you get onto to the High Line trail that follows the mountain range. This is definitely a must-run. We didn’t do that one today but I fully recommend it.

What’s in your Pack? Running with Weights

Yes, some people do run with weights. And yes, it is hard. But no, they don’t die, they just get a lot more tired and don’t go as fast. But they do develop bigger leg and core muscles.

This is not something you would want to do on every training run. Unsurprisingly, most people don’t want to do it on any run. Are they missing out?

I was feeling sorry for myself on my last stair repeat workout, when I noticed this other guy wearing a weight vest. I realized, there are harder things in life than just doing stair repeats. You can do them with weights.

There are a bunch of different types of weights you could use. A running vest, like the one worn by my stair-running friend fits snug so it doesn’t bounce around. But the weight is the weight. It is hard to increase or decrease. And the one he had wasn’t very breathable. Definitely not breathable like a running shirt would be. So be prepared to do heat training as well when you wear one of these.

There are weights you put on your ankles or shoes. But you need to be careful that your ankles do not get stretched too much since feet are not used to being pulled down on every step. A cheaper way to do shoe weights is to go for a run in the mud. Yeah, that sticky gooey kind of mud where your shoes getting bigger with every step. But again, you can’t control the weight, but it can be fun.

You could just wear big heavy boots, but beware of blisters. Not recommended!

Filling up your water bladder fuller than it needs to be is a great way to increase the weight you were going to wear anyway. Liquids are heavier than you’d think. It doesn’t take much extra liquid to come to this realization.

My favourite is just a plain old backpack. Whether it is a small snug running back pack, or a big ill-fitting backpack, just use the one you’ve got. The weight inside it can be adjusted to suit how masochistic you feel, and is only limited by your creativity. If you find it too heavy, you can always remove stuff. Sometimes that might be in the middle of a run so bring stuff you don’t mind getting rid of.

But stuff bounces around if you can’t zip it up tight. I tried putting my work shoes in my pack on my run home yesterday and they bounced all the way home since there wasn’t sufficient straps to tighten it up. Annoying! And then the zippers started making a racket right next to my ears. So packs are not always the best solution.

Of course if you are one of those the hard-core masochists you might be tempted to carry rocks in your pack. Rocks are heavy. Heavy things makes running harder. Harder makes you stronger.

Bonus: Pulling rocks out of your pack after a group run can be used to full effect as an intimidation factor.

IMG_20160429_174219392_crop_725x601

But take it easy. That weight really adds up with every step. Don’t go far, don’t go fast, even if you think you can. Work your way up by slowly increasing weight. It is super easy to injure yourself. And injuries would just sideline you. No fun in that.

The reward of all this weight training is the amazing feeling on that first run after you have run with weights for a week. You feel so light on your feet you could run forever. And you feel fast. And you are fast. Wee!

Any other ideas for weight training?

Goodbye, Old Pals

You don’t say goodbye to a pair of running shoes everyday, but it can be a slightly mournful day when you have to send those tired runners to that great shoe pile in the sky. I like to think that those worn out shoes are chatting up a storm in that mountain of a pile as they compare tales of their adventures and where they’ve been.

Resized picture

My most recent pair that gave up the ghost had holes where my feet had burst through the sides on both shoes on both sides. Also, the nails of my big toes had pierced through the front. Needless to say, these trail shoes no longer kept the grit out of my feet. And the cushioning was long gone. I couldn’t even use this pair for a backup. I had worn them too long.

We had been through a lot together. Those shoes had summitted mountains, logged hundred of miles on trails, run through small creeks, and not-so-small creeks. They had run cross-country races through the ice, mud, and snow. They prepped me for my longest race ever – 87km last August. They took me through my December run streak. They lasted through my Spring buildup this year.

They were my first pair of ORANGE shoes. Me, in orange shoes? I never would have thought. I think my teen daughters were jealous but they wouldn’t admit it. The orange shoes that are currently in the entrance way are not mine. I must have started a trend.

My next pair isn’t standing out quite so much among the mound of shoes in our house, except for the fact that they are still shiny. And I do like new shiny shoes. A new pair feels so good when the old pair really has nothing left to give. But the new pair doesn’t know what it’s in for. It doesn’t know where it might be headed tomorrow and what kind of runner has brought them home.

So I am ready to introduce myself to the new pair. There are trails to be run and adventures to be had. We can’t be mourning that old pair for too long. Let’s get out there!

Well, that did me in!

Alternate Title: Thrashing my Quads

After spending two weeks in Africa doing very little exercise and a lot of time on airplanes, I needed to quickly get over my jetlag to get back into the swing of things. What better way than to go for a run. And runs usually work very well for me to speed up up the recovery process. But the run I ended up going on, was apparently WAY too much.

My wife was going out for a hike with her friends the day after I landed so I went out with them to the trailhead and ran from there. One of the reasons I was so excited about this run was that it seemed like such a long time since I had gotten into nature and seen mountains or any other amazing view. A a long time since I had been on a trail run.

From the parking spot, there are many different directions to run. Some are mostly flat, some are not so flat, most are rugged trails, and all are epic. However, I chose the steepest trail to get to the highest elevation as quick as possible hoping for the most epic view of the valley.

All the local trail runners know Prairie Mountain. It is a 700m elevation gain in 3.5km (20% grade average) on very technical trail (roots and rocks). The mountain is used for training by many runners. One ultra-runner I was chatting to judges the difficulty of an ultra-race by how many “Prairie-Mountains” you needed to do in a row before you are ready for that race. For a local 125km ultra she said “To make sure you are ready for that race you need to be able to do at least two Prairie-Mountains back to back and not feel sore the next day.” It’s a serious hill.

Not very much of the uphill is runnable, and the whole downhill is spent with serious “brakes” on. Expect your quads to be hammered. Last summer I tried doing it with very little tread left on my road shoes and quickly regretted it because of all the sliding I did.

Anyway, I was feeling fairly confident to be able to do okay at it because twice last summer, I had done the mountain twice in a row. However, I didn’t appreciate that 8 months is such a long time when it comes to quad conditioning.

I drastically underestimated where I was at physically this Spring. I got to the top okay but by the time I was half way down I knew it was going to hurt significantly the next day. Near the bottom my legs felt pretty wobbly, and I couldn’t trust them very much. It was a slow finish as I wobbled back to the car.

I still had a couple hours until the others were going to be back at the car, so I took a bit of a rest then decided to recover my legs with a flat run. Well, two hours later (3.5 hours total) I hobbled down to the river to cool my legs off and then collapsed in the car.

You can imagine my pain the next day. It was like my first marathon all over again. My quads were thrashed. I needed the railing to get myself down the stairs. I dreaded having to get up to pee at night. And my family and co-workers were not-quite silent in their laughing at my expense. But I probably deserved it.

One of the terrible things about it was that I mostly couldn’t run for nearly a week. I was counting on using the coming weeks to jump straight into a full-on training season. But that had to be put on hold because I could barely walk, let alone run. If only I had not jumped straight into that crazy tough run, I would have been able to slowly ramp up. As it is, I am now already a week behind. But on the bright side, I’m probably wiser for it. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it again. But wisdom doesn’t always factor in when deciding about where and how far to run.

When there is epic-ness involved, wisdom is often thrown out the window.

Prairie Link Loop – Places to Run

I have run this 12km loop once before, maybe 5 years ago but I had run it clockwise. When I ran it last week, I decided to do it counter-clockwise. Well my memory wasn’t quite as good as I thought and I was second-guessing a little too much. I had neglected to take a photo of the trailhead map since I was sure it was on my phone somewhere. But when I needed it I couldn’t find it. So I was within 100m of turning around at the half way point when I came across the bridge to assure myself I was still on the right trail. There weren’t many people on the trail to ask, and definitely no direction signs. That was very close to a disappointing run!

Then within 500m of the bridge I missed the next turn even though there was a trailhead map right there. So I did an extra 1.5 km in the wrong direction before my brain kicked in with its internal GPS to override what looked right on my actual GPS.

IMG_20160413_114728831_HDR-1600x900
I love these bridges

So going counter clockwise, in mid-April I found some ice on the trail at the very end for several hundred meters near the parking lot. But overall, the trail was very dry, especially for April. I don’t remember any mud. We’ve had a very dry winter / spring.

There were maybe 10 others on the trail that I ran into over the 2 hours out there, on a weekday morning. On the weekends, it is full of mountain bikes and there can horses too. But this was a great time to be out there. I don’t get many weekday mornings to get out there.

IMG_20160413_114823379-1600x900
Hoping there’s no bears or cougars around the corner. The bear spray is buried too deep in my pack for that kind of surprise.

 

IMG_20160413_123631554-1600x900
Rocky Mountains as a backdrop
IMG_20160413_131604764-1600x900
Unfortunately, all the sections of trail that were this smooth had incredibly steep or were long hills

IMG_20160413_140611597-1600x900

Now that’s a cold river but it felt great on the feet (for the few seconds it took to take the photo).

 

prairielink
Can you tell where I lost the trail? Yeah, I didn’t read the sign and assumed I knew the way. Good thing my internal GPS kicked in eventually.

To get there from Calgary, head through Bragg Creek to Kananaskis Country, and park at Elbow Falls. Before mid-May the road is closed beyond this point but it is only 500m to the trail head. In the summer you can drive right to the parking lot for Powder Ridge Trail. That’s an amazing trail too. So is Prairie Mountain. So much to hike and run from this one parking spot.

Praire Link Loop – 15km with the wrong turn (12km otherwise), 360m elevation gain

Lost on the Muddy Trails

Our treat on our Saturday trail run was to see a moose come check us out and then cruise away. Those guys can sure run fast.

These trails are inside the city limits of Calgary so we really don’t have to go far to get this nature. We feel pretty lucky.

image

The trails had frozen solid overnight but were thawing quickly by the time we got there at 11. So we had a lot of mud, both the sloppy kind, and the frozen kind that was filled with footprints from the hikers (and moose) the previous day. The deep frozen footprints were pretty tough to run without twisting ankles. The ice patches kept us guessing whether we were going to break through any given section and get wet feet or if we would slide out of control.

But mud can be fun. We had fun splattered all over us.

image

image

image

image
Yeah, we couldn’t see the trail here either

image

We got lost a couple times and did one of the loops twice. Good thing we had a gps map to consult

image

12 km in Weaselhead flats along Glenmore Reservoir in Calgary

We love these trails. And they are only 20 minutes from home.

As spring comes these wet areas become mosquito havens making it almost intolerable. So this season is definitely the best for these trails.

On the Trails

image

“Can we go this way?”

That meant along the trail instead of the paved pathway. At this time of year you don’t know what you’re going to get on the trail.

We found a lot of mud and ice. And very slippery mud and ice. And mud that stuck to our shoes.  On the hills it was a little treacherous. We weren’t out for timed run, just to get in our 4 km on something a little more difficult that would get our heart up a little higher.

image

image

We love this trail that leads out from our back yard but usually we have to wait until later in the spring. We probably should have waited a little longer and maybe we will wait another month or so considering what we encountered.

Since we were flying the next day I had to hose down my shoes before packing them. To make sure they were dry I put them over the furnace vent over night and they were quite dry. But they sure stunk the next day. So I found some deodorizer spray and some baking soda. But I had to put them in my carry on. I could smell my shoes all day on both flights. Some of it was my imagination but much of it was not. Hopefully the other passengers didn’t figure out where the smell was coming from.

The joys of traveling with not quite clean running gear. I think I will be searching out some Lysol before heading home in a week.

We are looking forward to finding some new trails on our travels.